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Museums are clearly a key interface between the public and any archaeological material. They form the largest group of Mesolithic Presentation Sites and have the longest history.

Museums generally have some official relationship with the government (local, regional or national) and may have an obligation to collect and preserve material with their obligation to public presentation being parallel or even secondary. Museums tend to have indoor displays and many began as, or continue, private collections that have a long history (Darvill 2002).

Museums have a variety of roles determined by their past and current relationships with other agencies. For example many major museums began as 19th century aristocratic collections that were 'given to the nation'. Others have very specific collections attached to an archaeological site or period. Only a few - normally privately funded 'attractions' - see their public role as absolutely primary, many also have curatorial or research roles. This often leads to tension for curators; do they make attractive, synthetic exhibitions that tell one or two stories, or do they present the material in their collection as holistically as possible and let the public discover meaning in it for themselves? Obviously most museums fall somewhere between these extremes.

Museum roles

Issues in museums

Future of Museums report 2012

These issues are discussed at length in museum studies literature

Visitor research